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The Gaslight Dogs

(Middle Light #1)

3.06  ·  Rating details ·  451 ratings  ·  116 reviews
At the edge of the known world, an ancient nomadic tribe faces a new enemy-an Empire fueled by technology and war.

A young spiritwalker of the Aniw and a captain in the Ciracusan army find themselves unexpectedly thrown together. The Aniw girl, taken prisoner from her people, must teach the reluctant soldier a forbidden talent -- one that may turn the tide of the war and w
Paperback, 359 pages
Published April 1st 2010 by Orbit (first published 2010)
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Karin thank you for the question! I have the 2nd and 3rd book planned out and will get right to it after finishing the 4th book in my science fiction series…morethank you for the question! I have the 2nd and 3rd book planned out and will get right to it after finishing the 4th book in my science fiction series. but I definitely want to write the rest of it.(less)
Karin Thank you, Kay and Rae! Whether there's a stampeding readership for it or not, I know that it's a story I need and want to tell to completion. I do se…moreThank you, Kay and Rae! Whether there's a stampeding readership for it or not, I know that it's a story I need and want to tell to completion. I do see the flaws in it now, 7 years removed, so I think the inevitable Book 2 (entitled "The Moonlight Dogs") would at least be better paced. :)(less)

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Jul 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jon by: Beyond Reality August 2010 Selection
I mulled over this novel all weekend, avoided writing a review or rating it until I could cogently summarize my reactions. A four star rating in this instance, while warranted, doesn't accurately reflect my feelings. I didn't like this story, but I loved the writing. Vivid, sometimes visceral, yet sparse descriptions etching indelibly my imagination. Canine metaphors aptly placed and finely tuned.

On the surface, Gaslight Dogs might represent the clash between the pioneer spirit of exploration,
Have you ever heard Inuit thoart singing? I recently heard a musical composition for Nanook of the North, and it incorpated the style. If you are a Westener, it's strange, very beautiful, type of music. It's almost like purring cats, except it's not; it really sounds like walking on the snow and ice, but only more so. It's tough but beautiful, but different than the beauty of bagpipes, very different, less warlike and more nature like Apparently, it also could be a dying art form. It is less wel ...more
Jul 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
My updated review/article about this novel is now up at and my own site,
K. Lincoln
Apr 06, 2010 rated it liked it
For me Gaslight Dogs was a study in contradictions. The writing, poetical throughout, sometimes got on my nerves with the vagueness of it. The characters, while completely and totally believable and real, never reached out and put their hands into my chest and squeezed my heart, despite their circumstances.
The story, while interesting, never quite seemed to understand where it was going.
The story starts with a Aniw (think inuit) girl taken forcibly from her village for killing a soldier who brok
May 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebook, fantasy
Whew! What a book! I loved it, although it took me a little while to orient myself in this strange world. All right, there are references to different races, the Boots - representing Caucasians, and the Aniw, obviously related to Inuit. Other than that, the world is very strange indeed. But it soon became tangled in my psyche and I found myself being horrified, saddened, frustrated, maddened, and frightened. The writing is beautiful. The author uses words like an artist -- to wit: The rage at th ...more
Mike Finn
In 'The Gaslight Dogs', Karin Lowachee has built a powerful, convincing vision of a world in the throes of a familiar colonial conflict, has populated it with real people who have very little in common except their enforced servitude and then added an original, credible supernatural twist that gives the story its edge.

The first thing that hit me about 'The Gaslight Dogs' was the quality of the writing. Language here isn't a thin skin stretched over the bones of a clever plot, it's an invitatio
Kay Camden
Karin Lowachee's writing is filled to the brim with powerful storytelling enriched by poetic, expert prose, and this book is proof of that. The care that goes into each and every word of her writing leaves me speechless. And the characters... their struggles, their reluctant unions, how human and authentic they feel... at times in this book it was almost overwhelming. I often had to set it down just to catch my breath.

I love Sjenn, her peaceful strength, her morals, her refusal to accept the vio
Jul 27, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, e-books, 2010
I really don't know what to say about The Gaslight Dogs. I read a lot of books in a wide variety of genres/styles. I have never read anything like this book. I don't think I ever found the terror that I should have felt. The scenes that should have frightened me just broke my heart. The one thing the author never does is give everything away. Even though the book seems to have a definitive ending, by the end, there are still many unanswered questions. I am looking forward to reading the next ins ...more
May 10, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy
This book was a bit of a disappointment for me. The concept was fascinating, but the execution poor and often wandering. The characters were believable but their conversations were constantly described with very forced battle metaphors, and their convictions were often replaced with what was need for the plot. The plot itself seemed to be only half thought out, and where many intriguing issues were raised, none were dealt with to any satisfaction. I kept waiting for this book to make good on it' ...more
Clare K. R.
Feb 19, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy
There are two POV characters in this book. One is an Aniw (based on the Inuit) ankago, a woman with shaman-like powers. The other is a Ciracusan (the invaders of this America-analogue continent) army captain. Both of them spend about 80% of their time whining.

To be fair, they have a lot to whine about. However, that neither justifies them nor makes this book any more interesting.

I kept reading this book mostly because the world was interesting, and a little bit because the characters were intere
Dec 11, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, read-in-2011
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I chose this book for a challenge on the steampunk genre. It was listed on the listopia "Best Steampunk Books". From what I understand of steampunk, this did not meet the criteria.

The setting was a meld of 20th century Inuit life with Victorian underground and the wild west according to the author. There was a large paranormal element in that the story centered around people who were able to shapeshift into their spirit animal. But there was no technology, unless you count the gaslights that lin
May 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
This is frequently cited in lists of not-stupid book covers. (The person depicted is female, armed, not helpless, not half-naked, not contorted, and not acanonically Causasian. She *does* have tattoos but they're plot-significant.) Unfortunately, after all that, she's not the protagonist of the book. Her dog arguably has more of a plot role than she does.

The protagonist is Captain Fawle, the requisite disenchanted soldier in a story about white folks in a fantasy-US-western-frontier. This appear
Sep 22, 2010 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Wonderfully original and beautifully done! I have never read anything by Lowachee before now, but will definitely be seeking out her other books.

I've always been fascinated by the Arctic and so when I heard about this book I absolutely had to have it. The two POV characters are fully realized, and the occasional use of present tense in certain segments of the book is perfect.

The ending was a shocker and a cliffhanger and yet now that I've thought about it, it feels like it couldn't have ended a
Feb 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, fiction
Great start for the series. Some interesting and original world building and deep characterization. Karin Lowachee's writing is incredible, as usual. Looking forward to the next in the series. ...more
Stories about indigenous people should always, always be written by those indigenous people. Never by those who are not of that ethnicity. This book underscores why.

While this story is meant to be about a fantasy land, it's a pretty heavy handed metaphorical take on USA/Native American colonial history but with a steampunk fantasy twist. It reinforces colonial violence against indigenous people and justifies cultural appropriation of indigenous culture (traditions, beliefs, etc.) by white peopl
Feb 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: paper
I have been referring to this as "the problematic colonialism book". I mean that in both senses. It is a book all about how colonialism screws people up, and it's a book where I think some of the colonialist narratives are not examined.

A friend pointed out that the story makes a lot more sense when you realize it's Canadian, and not American fantasy -- that is to say that the fantasy countries are deeply informed by the Canadian experience of contact with original inhabitants. There are snow-dwe
Nov 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Joci, John, Jude
If you're expecting that this book may be part of the same sci-fi series as Karin Lowachee's last three publications (Warchild, Burndive and Cagebird), it's not. It's a fantasy, and a really interesting one. It also appears to be the first of a set or series, as well, as it ends with a cliffhanger. (Arrrgh! :D)

I heard something about steampunk... also, I think, a misleading idea. Think Inuit and Old West Rangers, and the effects of colonialism. Wrap that up with some "magic" -- though Sjenn woul
Jan 18, 2010 rated it it was ok
Uuuuuuuuuummmmmmm. I'm not quite sure what to say about this book. I feel really complicated about it. First off, I thought the writing was overdone and sometimes repetitive. Overly flowery language and descriptions like, "Feeling a tongue of cool air tickle the back of his neck, as if the commotion one street over somehow pushed a reminder to his reluctant stance, Jarret shouldered open the gate and stepped through." All that just to go through a gate? After I'd already been told how very reluc ...more
Jan 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book had so many issues, I don't even know where to start.

The plot was that "white people" (generic fantasy Europeans) came to "North America" (generic fantasy New World) wanting to use the magic of "Native Americans" (generic native people) to win their wars. The fantasy layer was so thin, I never for a moment thought she wasn't writing about Europeans' abuse of Native Americans. It didn't help that she said that outright both in the forward and afterward of the book...

While I sort of like
Sep 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: my-reviews, fantasy
This is a radically different alternate history continuity. The alternate Europeans are more mysterious than the alternate Inuits because we have no idea what they left behind in their native Circusia. So we can't be certain about what motivates them. What seems familiar about them may not be familiar at all.

I had a hard time orienting myself at first in what seemed to be my own country. Then I realized that the Canadian author had created an alternate Canada. Then it all started to make sense.

Barbara Gordon
May 11, 2012 rated it it was ok
Loooooove the cover. Love the premise - spiritwalker girl from Inuit-like culture is abducted and taken to equivalent-1800s America so that insane general can have her teach spiritwalking / dog spirit to his estranged son, a captain in the army.

First part of the book I enjoyed and rushed through, with Sjenn's story as she struggles with the demands of her 'little spirit' and her dead father's spirit, and tries to understand the 'Boot People' who have captured her. The stars in my rating are for
Apr 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: steampunk-etc
(3.5. Where are my half-stars?!? Waah.)

Sometimes in a dream, I feel like I have cotton balls stuffed in my ears and the wrong end of a pair of binoculars taped to my eyes. The dream is vivid, and it's lovely or horrible, but I feel distant from it and have trouble connecting.

That's how I felt while reading this book. A sense of place leaps off every page; Lowachee imbues the book with myriad sensual details. And I found the characters intensely real and engaging and the tension between them crac
Lynn Calvin
Mar 04, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: amazon-preorder
meh. Flashes of interesting stuff, but it dragged. I don't much like books about analogies to collisions between native/aboriginal cultures and 19th century analogs. The Eskimo analog culture bored me when it didn't annoy me.

I suppose it says something mildly positive about Lowachee's ability to invoke the alien that I did eventually finish it.

I may have had some unfair and probably irrelevant sense of comparing it to Pullman (whose Dark Materials books to me consisted of a brilliant first book
I am about halfway through this, and I am afraid I'll have to either put it on hold, or mark it as 'did not finish'. I really wanted to like this book. I mean, fantasy/steampunk with Inuits? How great is that? Unfortunately, it's just isn't as good as I was hoping it would be. The characters are uninspiring, the story is not bad but does not grab, the writing style is occasionally poetic, but mostly infuriating (I am still not sure I understand this sentence, for example: 'A rare enough quality ...more
Aug 14, 2010 rated it did not like it
I wanted to like this book, I really did. The concept is fantastic, but unfortunately the execution left something to be desired. The writing is clunky, and while the reader creates a decent connection with the female character, but the male character (as far as I can tell she is not intending on their relationship to be romantic) remains cold and distant, an idea rather than a person.

I also hated the ending, as it seemed like a cliffhanger ready for a sequel rather than a proper ending.
After various tries I finally fast read this one and sort of gave up on it; I may reconsider when the sequel comes out since the ending while not strictly a cliffhanger, requires one, but the verbose and emotional style of the book just did not work that well for me; a minor disapointment
Mark Argent
Sep 02, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2018-read
don't. ...more
Mar 24, 2017 rated it did not like it
This book has a serious identity problem. Its cover looks like historical fiction, and the description shows it has a paranormal element. Which is cool. But the only historical aspect here is the Ainu (spelled Ainw in the book); the settlers from overseas are clearly meant to represent white colonials, but I don't see anything historical about them other than their Victorian-inspired design aesthetic. It strains credulity even as an alternate history because nothing indicates a clear break with ...more
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Karin was born in South America, grew up in Canada, and worked in the Arctic. Her first novel WARCHILD won the 2001 Warner Aspect First Novel Contest. Both WARCHILD (2002) and her third novel CAGEBIRD (2005) were finalists for the Philip K. Dick Award. CAGEBIRD won the Prix Aurora Award in 2006 for Best Long-Form Work in English and the Spectrum Award also in 2006. Her second novel BURNDIVE debute ...more

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